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Oxford University Press - Online Resource Centres

Hale et al: Criminology 3e

Chapter 20: Chapter synopses

The Criminal Justice System forms a large burden on public resources. In 2007-2008, the Government would spend ?22.7bn on police forces, prosecution and defence lawyers, courts, probation and prisons. The Criminal Justice System is a collection of autonomous and semi-autonomous agencies, such as the police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the Crown and Magistrates? courts and the correctional services (prisons etc). Each has its own objectives, principles and core responsibilities such as prosecuting and punishing offenders, reducing crime, maintaining community safety, caring for victims as well as protecting the rights and interests of the accused. The building blocks of criminal justice can be summarized as follows:

  • Substantive criminal laws - the police and the courts require legal authority to exercise their powers of investigation and trial. These are all based upon the existence of criminal offences. These statutory offences can be contrasted with ?common law? offences which are based on the decisions of courts. Nowadays the courts no longer have the capacity to create new crimes, although their decisions and interpretations inevitably shape the boundaries of offences.
  • Procedural criminal law - empowers and constrains law enforcement agencies in their investigation of crime, providing them with the legal powers for arrest, detention and trial of suspects but also ensuring that suspects are treated with due respect. Such powers and procedures are primarily governed by such statutes as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) or the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 and underpinned by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights which provides everyone with the right to a fair trial.
  • Law enforcement agencies such as the police
  • Prosecution of offenders
  • Legal representation of offenders: the criminal justice system also provides for defendants to be assisted by lawyers, paid out of public funds (Legal Aid)
  • Trial and sentencing of the accused
  • A correctional system being either a fine, community sentence or custodial sentence.
  • Policy formulation which in England and Wales is undertaken by a range of government departments responsible for differing parts of the criminal justice system.

The chapter provides an insight into all these areas and agencies and concludes that the key unifying principle to which all should subscribe is that the accused has the right to a fair and just process, from investigation to arrest, to trial and sentencing through to release from prison.